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Work, Kids and the Pursuit of Sanity (Part 2)

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Work, Kids and the Pursuit of Sanity (Part 2)

The first part of this two-part series titled Work, kids and the pursuit of sanity, gave perspectives from business-owner parents on the realities of balancing entrepreneurship with kids. The verdict reached was – it really depends. There is an art to doing business in a way that allows you to achieve financial success, combined with the level of balance and flexibility you want.

Here, in part two of the series, let’s look at some of the tips that business-owner parents shared with me.

 1. Have a solid plan.

 Make sure you have a plan – one that includes growth strategies and a clear idea of how you will eventually exit the business. Rapid growth can see you working completely unsustainable hours, leading to burn out (and of course, missed time with your family). It’s not great for your business either. And, unless you want to work in your business for the rest of your life, you better have an exit strategy.

2. Expect to work hard, take big risks and learn a lot about yourself.

In many cases, getting a Small Business up and running means pushing beyond your limits. This could mean operating way outside your comfort zone, jumping at opportunities that terrify you, or working punishing hours. According to hospitality entrepreneur, Brett Roland:

You’ll do loads of hours of work, many more than you ever expected and you will take risks that you never thought you would. You will learn a lot about yourself and a lot about the business world. You can’t learn this stuff at university or when you’re working for someone else. You are where the ‘buck stops’ and it’s up to you to keep the business afloat. This brings out your true character like nothing else.

3. Prioritise your mental and physical health.

I find this hard, with two small children and a business. But I’d be the first to acknowledge I need to work at it. Because, if you run yourself into the ground, who’s going to pay the bills? If you feel like crap, how are you going to run an amazing workshop, or give a ground-breaking speech? If you’re completely burnt out, how are you going to play with your kids or support your spouse?

Technology entrepreneur and coach, Cuan Mulligan, recommends getting to know your body – advice that he has taken so much to heart, that he undertook DNA testing. Armed with detailed information about his physical strengths and weaknesses, Cuan can support his body and operate at his peak. He says:

My hypothalamus is not very sensitive to cortisol, the stress hormone, so I overproduce it. I now take a supplement to help me self-regulate. Also, my body doesn’t produce a particular amino acid, so I take that now, and I sleep like a baby. I also practice a method called circling, which helps you become more present in the moment and improves focus.

Whether you want to get scientific like Cuan, or simply eat better and exercise more, taking care of your own wellbeing needs to be part of your business plan.

4. Look after your personal relationships.

Running a business can put a strain on your relationships, especially with your significant other. As parents, we get so busy running a household, as well as providing financially and emotionally for our kids, that we forget to turn towards each other, sharing our joys, stresses and frustrations. Make sure you carve out time to switch off from work and nurture your precious relationships; including your spouse, parents, kids, siblings and best friends.

5. Have a support team.

Who’s on your squad? Many business-owning parents rely on family for support with managing school commitments, activities and the school run. Others have a great nanny, au pair or after-school care or day care centre. Personally, I couldn’t live without my cleaner. When you have a support team you can trust, it makes it much easier to focus on what has to be done in your business.

6. Manage your schedule like a ninja.

Jackie Strachan, founder of consultancy HR Tactics, told me:

If it’s not in my diary, it doesn’t happen. As well as the obvious things like swimming and ballet, I schedule time in to do homework with my two children.” Jackie also recommends building some padding into the diary so that when priorities change, there’s scope to manage it. And finally, she says starting client work early is key, “Even if I make a very brief start and then go back to it closer to the finish line, it helps me stay emotionally balanced knowing I won’t have to pull an all-nighter the night before the deadline.

7. Get the kids on board.

Many business owners report that their kids are surprisingly up to speed with the business and what it entails. From being quiet in the car when a client calls, to helping with tasks like sticking on stamps, many kids relish the chance to be involved. My three-year-old still likes to shout ‘poo poo’ while I’m on important client calls, but it’s nice to know there’s hope for the future.

8. Know your non-negotiables.

Being a business owner often means compromise; which makes it all the more important to know what your ‘non-negotiables’ are. This could mean that you don’t pick your kids up from school, but you do commit to spending holidays together. Or, it could mean that don’t bump your scheduled gym session because an urgent client project comes in, but you do work late to get it done. Whatever they are, knowing your non-negotiables means you won’t miss the things that really matter to you.

At one end of the spectrum, having your own business can allow you to design your working life around your home life while earning great money… at the other end, it can require far greater sacrifice than you’re prepared to make. More likely, it will fall somewhere between those two extremes. To make the journey easier, get clear on your non-negotiables, schedule time for your own health and wellbeing, and put a strong support network in place.

With thanks to all the entrepreneurs and small business owners who generously shared their insights and experiences for this article.

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